Writing by Kyle Freelander
The people dodge soda stains on the sidewalk,
their attention directed to the ground so they don’t see
the sign that says ‘free kittens’ in shaky black marker,
a plea for them to take us out of the worn box
and show us what a real home looks like,
where we wouldn’t have to worry about food
as we spent our days playing with yarn
instead of green glass bottles and sacred hair balls
we fight over, our only source of fun.
My brothers and sisters plead for the people’s attention
by pouncing on the rim of the box, pushing and shoving,
doing whatever it takes to get chosen for protection
but we are easy to ignore on a street full of distractions.
Smoke from a man’s mouth drifts our way,
smelling worse than our only neighbor, the sewer,
while the clanking of metal trashcans
is mistaken for music by the people
who stop for that, but not for us.
Cries surround me, drowned out to the people by sirens
from trucks that zoom past as we stand still
begging, pleading, asking sweetly for love
from those who never intended to give it
and for a moment I think that I should join my family
in their task of getting out of misery but I can’t,
my quiet tongue holds me back again.
I always was the silent one.
One person approaches, called over by the noise,
he pets us with his dirty, cloth hands
and wishes us luck with our quest,
which is enough to tell the people that pass us
that we are friendly enough for hellos
and too cute for goodbyes
as strangers took my siblings away, one by one,
until they have all been taken away from me.
I always was the ugly one.
A little boy picks me up, pulling on my tail
but that doesn’t matter to me as he asks his mother
if they can take me home and feed me, play with me,
and name me Oliver like their last cat.
I flick my ears forward and tell my eyes to grow,
anything to be cute enough to be taken home,
but his mother tells him to put me back.
I always was the rejected one.
Rain begins to fall, gluing my fur together in clumps,
while the people hide under umbrellas and in buildings
I have no hope of getting to; ever-exposed in the box.
I open my mouth to greet the water with my dryness
and snaps of my baby teeth, just sharp enough to scare
the people away from me as I pray silently for them
to come back, like they did for my siblings
in the sunshine of the day while I was left behind
to fend for myself in the cruel of the night.
An unheard cry escapes my lips as the box
becomes a pool I’m afraid of. I bat my paws frantically
trying to keep the water under me, off of me,
as I squeak and cry out for someone, anyone,
to save me from the box, from the streets of death,
but I am left to paddle for my own safety
until the box dampens and breaks,
the pool of water chucking me into the city
full of people with big feet for trampling
and small hearts full of hatred for forgotten
kittens like me, the lonely one.